Norfolk County Council sets its budget for the next 12 months - but what will it mean for you?

County Hall, Norwich.
PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY County Hall, Norwich. PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY

Tuesday, February 18, 2014
11:20 AM

Norfolk County Council has set its budget for next year - by a narrow margin - after an 11th hour deal was brokered with the Green party.

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Budget Q&A

What’s all this fuss about? Why should I care about Norfolk County Council’s budget?

Well, to steal a line from Anchorman Ron Burgundy, it’s kind of a big deal. The council spends about £1.5bn a year on services which affect many of us - be it fixing pot-holes, getting rid of our rubbish, looking after vulnerable people or running libraries. The county council employs almost 6,000 people, plus a further 14,200 in schools.

So what was agreed yesterday?

The Labour/Liberal Democrat budget, that’s what. The council agreed - by 41 votes to 39 - a £308m revenue budget on what to spend money on in 2014/15. And that means some £76.7m of cuts and savings starting from April. That will be followed by £53m the next year and £38.2m the year after that. That adds up to about £168m over the next three years, which the council says goes some way to plugging a £189m funding gap caused by extra costs and less government cash.

Gosh. £168m of cuts and savings. How will that affect me?

It depends on who you are. At the most basic level, if you’re a driver, you might find pot-holes don’t get fixed, because £1m less will be spent on road maintenance next year.

If you use a library, then you might see less staff there and if you recycle, then you’re likely to find yourself having to pay to take things like tyres to the tip.

On a more extreme level, if you work at Norfolk County Council, then your job could be at risk, while if you get social care from the council, then you could be facing big changes in the care you get.

That’s a bit worrying, isn’t it?

That’s what a lot of people told the council in the Putting People First consultation carried out into the proposed cuts, reductions and savings. The changes in social care came up as one of the biggest issues, along with cuts to subsidies for 16 to 19 transport. The council has pulled back a bit from those changes as a result.

I guess all this need to save money means my council tax is going up, right?

Actually, no. The Greens had wanted a 3.5pc council tax hike. That would have raised £10.6m, but would have needed a referendum which would have cost about £1m. That was rejected and the council agreed to freeze its share of the council tax. The police precept is set to go up, however, and some town and district councils, such as Norwich City Council, are planning to increase their share.

The Labour/Liberal Democrat administration, which has support from UKIP, had proposed a budget paving the way for £167m of savings and cuts over the next three years.

From reductions in library staff and school crossing patrols to less money to fix roads and charging for recycling, the proposals were outlined in a consultation called Putting People First.

But the Conservatives voted against the budget and only an 11th hour deal agreed with the Greens, which led to two of that four-strong group voting for it, saw the budget over the line. It was agreed by 41 to 39, with one abstention.

A UKIP amendment, including reducing cuts to Trading Standards, making money available to help carers and creating a £250k emergency coastal erosion fund was voted through.

George Nobbs - Crome (Labour)George Nobbs - Crome (Labour)

A Green amendment, calling for a 3.5pc council tax increase, which would have been used to safeguard personal budgets and some school services was lost yesterday morning.

For a while, it looked as if the Greens might vote against the budget, but late in the debate, which went on for more than five hours. a decisive breakthrough was reached.

The deal agreed with the Greens, which saw two of them vote with the administration, is for a review into the cuts to personal budgets, which could see £1m put back in for the next year.

The Greens were also given confirmation that there will be an extraordinary council meeting where councillors get another vote on whether to push ahead with the incinerator at King’s Lynn.

There was much criticism of the Conservative group for failing to table an amendment. The Conservatives said that, once they started looking into the budget, it became clear there were flaws and would be too big a task to salvage it.

Conservative leader Bill Borrett, who was chastised by the chairman for using a swearword at one point, bore the brunt of much of the criticism for his group’s lack of an amendment.

There were suggestions he had lost the support of his group and was on the brink of resigning.

Afterwards, he dismissed such suggestions. He said: “I would never be so arrogant to assume I have a right to be Conservative leader, but I am happy to fill the role if that is what my group want.”

Two of the most contentious proposals were to cut subsidies for transport for 16 to 19 year old students and to reduce spending on personal budgets in adult social services.

Those cuts have been given a stay of execution, although the savings are still factored in over the three years, pending the review secured by the Greens.

An extra £3m, as previously agreed, is earmarked for the troubled children’s services department. At yesterday’s meeting, James Joyce, cabinet member for safeguarding, had warned the Department for Education would take a dim view of a failure to set a budget.

The £308.3m budget for next year is predicated on a freeze for council tax.

• What do you think? Write, giving full contact details, to Letters Editor, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE.

13 comments

  • Maryjane, my post was removed as off.ensive, perhaps the same consideration could be said for Gnobbs’ leadership style and towards Cllr Kemp, not to mention his u turns, one of which was the lengthy delay to bringing in the Committee System that he was so keen on before becoming Leader.

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    Honest John

    Wednesday, February 19, 2014

  • Probably one of the best budgets of all time. I think it was handled very well given the circumstances. Good job.

    Report this comment

    Mad Dog

    Tuesday, February 25, 2014

  • I'm glad you liked it 'D'el Boy and it's really heartening to see you back it 100%. Given that you are so in touch with the political machinery at NCC I guess you endorse the deal done behind the scenes to secure such a 'good budget'?

    Report this comment

    User Removed

    Friday, February 21, 2014

  • The NCC Tories have to stop playing political games. There is no way they will get public support at the next election. They have spent tax payers money as if there is no tomorrow. They voted against George Nobbs budget but would sell Norfolk tax payers to an American company tied to dept for 25 years. It is about time George Nobbs listened to the feelings of the people of Norfolk instead of resurrecting the Tories.

    Report this comment

    Jack

    Monday, February 24, 2014

  • Mr Borratt is chief advisor to Mr Nobbs.

    Report this comment

    Lyn from Lynn

    Tuesday, February 18, 2014

  • A very good budget all things considered. Well done all those that worked so hard on it.

    Report this comment

    Del Boy

    Wednesday, February 19, 2014

  • GNobbs is propped up by Borrett and Toby Coke and Marie Strong that's Tory, LibDem and UKIP on the Labour ticket - what is there on offer for those of us with little or no representation anymore?

    Report this comment

    maryjane

    Tuesday, February 18, 2014

  • Offensive is not libellous, I take offence at biased and censorious articles.

    Report this comment

    ingo wagenknecht

    Wednesday, February 19, 2014

  • Brilliant bit of work. Well done George for taking the advice. Good man.

    Report this comment

    Mr A. Schicklgruber

    Monday, February 24, 2014

  • If Borrett is losing control, strange he still managed to get 39 votes in support

    Report this comment

    Andy T

    Tuesday, February 18, 2014

  • Honest John - I remember GNobbs saying when he was elected that he would take on leadership of the Council for ONE year - surely we should accept the word of a gentleman!!! AND hold him to it. Anyway its all change in May when the new committee system, hopefully.

    Report this comment

    maryjane

    Wednesday, February 19, 2014

  • With 31.5 billion to spend why is the budget only about the Revenue side and not also Capital of nearly £400,000? I expect the Education funding is earmarked and cannot be tinkered with.

    Report this comment

    bedoomed

    Tuesday, February 18, 2014

  • GNobbs will stand down in May and the leadership will be up for grabs, who will be offered the crown - remember it was handed to Nobbs by Murphy in exchange for support in the Kevingate debacle. No wonder these two are hanging around the table.

    Report this comment

    maryjane

    Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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